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For a long time little was known of the origin and mean- 
ing of those important symbols of state sovereignty. In 
1894 Prof. Ashmore of Savannah, who is Corresponding Sec- 
retary of the Georgia Historical Society, prepared and pub- 
lished a fairly full history of the five great seals of Georgia. 

In 1912 Governor Joseph M. Brown, who is a student 
of history, and especially of matters pertaining to Georgia 
history, gave to the Atlanta Constitution an exceedingly in- 
teresting story of the first great seal of Georgia. Neither 
Prof. Ashmore nor Governor Brown makes reference to the 
difference in the great seal and the executive seal. The 
great seals are described in full by both writers. 

The law provides that the great seal shall be kept by 
the Secretary of State, and it is his duty to attach the same 
to all grants and to certified copies and transcripts of public 
documents in his office when so ordered by the Governor or 
the General Assembly. 

The executive seal is kept in the office of the Governor. 
It differs in form from the great seal, being designed only 
in part like the original seal as adopted by the state in 1799. 
The device is an ordinary seal having the column from the 
great seal on which is the legend, "Moderation." The soldier 
with the drawn sword appears by the column and there also 
appears the escutcheon of the United States, the shield and 
eagle. The executive seal is used and attached by the Gov- 
ernor to commissions which he issues and other current pa- 
pers and orders on which the stamp of his official authority 
is required to be placed. 

It will be noticed that Prof. Ashmore relates how Gov- 
ernor Jenkins saved the executive seal of the State in 1868. 
He fails to relate the equally interesting story of how Col. 
N. C. Barnett, deceased, who was Secretary of State for near- 
ly half a century and preceded Gen. Phil Cook, father of the 
present Secretary, Phil Cook, prompted by equally 
as great patriotism, saved from corrupt republican hands 
the great seal of Georgia. 

Here is that story : 


Colonel Barnett, being Secretary at the time of Sher- 
man's invasion, of course, the great seal was in his keeping. 
He determined to save it at all hazards, and preferred to take 
the responsibility upon himself. However, being afraid 
that the Yankees might kill him, he wished someone else to 
know where it was, so he secretly carried it home and gave 
it to his wife. She placed it in a tin box and buried it un- 
der her house. When Sherman reached our capital, which 
was then Milledgeville, he had the Secretary of State ar- 
rested and commanded him to give up the great seal of state. 
This Colonel Barnett refused to do, saying that he would 
die first. They put him in prison, but were never able to ex- 
tort any information as to the hiding place of Georgia's 
treasure. It is considered remarkable that they did not 
torture him to force his secret, but it is supposed that his 
brave spirit and dauntless bearing over-awed them, for he 
was one of nature's noblemen, physically and mentally, and 
no fear of death or suffering had power to make him quail. 

After Sherman laid Georgia to the sword and torch, the 
Republicans took charge of the state government. Bullock 
was their Governor, and they needed a state seal with which 
to authorize their fraudulent acts and papers. So they had 
one made by description as near like the original as they 
could get it. Now, a strange thing came to pass. This re- 
construction seal of the reconstruction period bore upon its 
obverse face the bar sinister, for the soldier standing between 
the pillars of "Justice" and "Moderation" held his sword in 
his left hand instead of in his right, as upon the original. 
The irony of fate marked that bogus seal and stamped fraud 
upon its face. 

In 1910 the Secretary of State reported to the General As- 
sembly that the great seal of Georgia was so worn by long 
use that it was practically of no service, and it was found on 
investigation that as far back as 1868 the General Assembly 
had ordered that the great seal be re-engraved and renewed. 
Nothing was done with this action of the General Assembly 
because of want of an appropriation, but in 1914 the General 
Assembly adopted a resolution authorizing a new seal, to be 
prepared as an exact copy of the old one in every respect ex- 
cept that the year "1776" was substituted for 1799. An ap- 
propriation was made under this resolution and the present 
great seal of Georgia is a facsimile of the one described by 
Prof. Ashmore and later by Governor Brown, except that 
the year 1776 stands in place of 1799, as on the old seal. 

The following is the sketch of the great seals given in 
1894 by Prof. Ashmore : 


Great Seals of Georgia — Five of Them Marking Five Epochs 
of Her History. 

The Colonial Seal the First — A Description of It — The 
Royal Seal, the Larger and More Beautiful. The Revolu- 
tionary Seal — The Seal of 1799. The Confederate Seal — 
Some Interesting Facts Concerning It. 

Some recent official duties connected with the Georgia 
Historical Society having called my attention to the great 
seals of our State, I have thought that a brief history of them 
might not prove uninteresting to the public. It is a matter 
of much surprise to find so few of our people, even of our 
public men, have much accurate information about these 
seals, and, what is worse, our State histories, which should 
be the conservators of historic truth, contain some glaring 
errors concerning them. The great seal of a state symbol- 
izes its highest authority, and being used as an attestation 
upon only the most important public documents, it is nat- 
urally invested with a sacred sentiment of inviolable honor 
and moral obligation. 

Georgia has had in all five great seals, corresponding 
to five great epochs in her history. The first, which may be 
called the Colonial seal, was adopted by the trustees about 
the middle of July, 1732, when the charter was obtained 
from the crown of England for colonizing Georgia. It was 
brought over by Oglethorpe in 1733 and used until 1734. 

This seal was formed with two faces, one for legisla- 
tive acts, deeds and commissions, and the other, the common 
seal, for grants, orders, certificates, etc. The device on the 
one was two figures resting upon urns, representing the riv- 
ers Savannah and Altamaha, the north-western and south- 
eastern boundaries of the province, between which the 
genius of the colony was seated with a cap of liberty on her 
head, a spear in one hand and a cornucopia in the other, with 
the inscription "Colonia Georgia, Aug." On the other face 
was the representation of silk worms, some beginning and 
others completing their labors, which was characterized by 
the motto, "Non Sibi, Sed Aliis." This inscription not only 
proclaimed the disinterested motives and intentions of the 
trustees, but suggested that the production of silk was to be 
reckoned among the most profitable employments of the 

The side of the first seal described was adopted as the 
seal of the Georgia Historical Society with only a change in 
the inscription. The inscription "Colonia Georgia, Aug," 
was replaced by the motto on the other side, "Non Sibi, Sed 


Aliis," and the words "Georgia Historical Society" were ad- 
ded. It is a matter of much regret that no picture or im- 
pression of that side of this seal containing the silk worms 
is known to exist, though persons now living remember to 
have seen impressions of it upon old land grants. There are 
doubtless among the papers of some of our old families cop- 
ies of this old seal, but long and diligent inquiry has failed, 
so far, to discover one of them. The writer would be glad 
to communicate with anyone who may have one of these 
old seals in his possession. For the sake of Georgia history, 
it should be rescued from oblivion.* 

The Royal Seal. 

In 1752 the trustees surrendered their charter to the 
crown, and Georgia became a royal province. On June 21, 
1754, a new seal was adopted by the Lords Commissioners 
of Trade and Plantations, and approved by the king, George 
II. This, which may be termed the royal seal, was the 
largest and the most beautiful of all the seals which Georgia 
has ever had. It was 4}^ inches in diameter and made of 
silver. It was of equal size with those sent to North and 
South Carolina, and similar in some respects to them. On 
one face was a figure representing the genius of the colony 
offering a skein of silk to his majesty, with the motto "Hinc 
Laudam Sperate Coloni," and this inscription around the cir- 
cumference, "Sigillum Provinciae Nostrae Georgiae in 
America." On the other side appeared his majesty's arms, 
crown, garter, supports and motto, with the inscription 
"Georgius II., Dei Gratia Magnae Britanniae Franciae et 
Hiberniae Rex, Fidei Defensor, Brunsvici et Luneburgi, 
Dux, Sacri Romani Imperii Archi Thesaurarius et Princeps 

The designs upon this seal were strikingly appropriate, 
and the workmanship and finish were executed with exquis- 
ite taste. It is a matter of some surprise that no print or en- 
graving of this seal has ever been made, indeed no writer 
upon Georgia history seems ever to have had access to an im- 
pression of it, though a brief and imperfect description of it 
may be found in most of our state histories. 

A few weeks ago the writer, with a desire to rescue, if 
possible, this historic relic from oblivion, made a systematic 
search for it among the private papers and public documents 
of the city of Savannah. The search was finally rewarded 
by the discovery of the long lost seal among the papers of 

•Since the statement above was first printed, copies have been 
found, and all danger of total loss is averted. 


Mr. William Neyle Habersham, of this city. This generous 
gentleman has presented it to the Georgia Historical Society, 
by whom it will be preserved as a curious historic relic of 
colonial times. 

Realizing the fact that no print or engraving of this 
beautiful seal had ever been made, the writer had both sides 
of it photographed, and from the photographs appropriate 
engravings have been made in New York. These engrav- 
ings, together with engravings of all the great seals of Geor- 
gia from 1732 to 1894, appeared for the first time in 
a new school history of Georgia by Superintendent Lawton 
B. Evans, of Augusta. 

The Revolutionary Seal. 

The royal seal was used till 1777, when Georgia united 
with her sister colonies in that great final struggle which 
gained for us our independence and established Georgia as 
a free and sovereign state. Upon the adoption of a new con- 
stitution on February 5, 1777, the great seal was changed to 
one of smaller size and less artistic in design. 

On one side was a scroll, whereon was inscribed, "The 
Constitution of the State of Georgia," and the motto "Pro 
Bono Publico." On the other side appeared an elegant house 
and other buildings, fields of corn and meadows covered 
with sheep and cattle; a river running through the same, 
with a ship under full sail and the motto, "Deus nobis haec 
otia fecit." Wax impressions of this old seal may still be 
found attached to old land grants made from 1777 to 1799. 
Several very good ones are in possession of the Georgia His- 
torical Society. 

Seal of 1799. 

In 1798 a constitutional convention was called and 
among the changes made in the fundamental law of the State 
was another change in the great seal, which was adopted 
Feb. 8, 1799. 

On one side of this seal was a view of the seashore, with 
a ship bearing the flag of the United States, riding at anchor 
near a wharf, receiving on board hogsheads of tobacco and 
bales of cotton, emblematic of the exports of this state ; at a 
small distance a boat landing from the interior of the state 
with hogsheads, etc., on board, representing her internal 
traffic ; in the back part of the same side, a man in the act of 
ploughing, and at a small distance a flock of sheep in dif- 
ferent pastures, shaded by a flourishing tree. The motto on 
this side was "Agriculture and Commerce, 1799." The oth- 


er side contained three pillars supporting an arch with the 
word "Constitution" engraved within the same, emblematic 
of the constitution supported by three departments of the 
government, viz: the legislative, judicial and executive; the 
first had engraved in a wreath upon it, "Wisdom ;" the sec- 
ond "Justice," and the third, "Moderation." On the right 
of the last pillar was a man standing with a drawn sword, 
representing the aid of the military in defense of the consti- 
tution, and around the margin the motto "State of Georgia, 

The words wisdom, justice and moderation were orig- 
inally ordered to be placed upon the base of the pillars, but 
the artists finding this impracticable, a subsequent act of the 
legislature authorized them to be placed in the wreath. 
The act directed that this seal be made of silver and the size 
of two and one-quarter inches in diameter, and that the old 
seal should be broken in the presence of the governor. This 
was used as the great seal of the State for sixty-two consec- 
utive years, until the secession convention of 1861 ordered 
that the next legislature, which should assemble immediate- 
ly after the rising of that body, should change the great seal 
of the State. 

The Confederate Seal. 

Pursuant to this order the legislature, by an act ap- 
proved December 14, 1861, appointed a commission consist- 
ing of S. S. Stafford, G. N. Lester, B.H. Bigham and the Sec- 
retary of State, "to prepare a new great seal for the State of 
Georgia, and to make all necessary preparations and arrange- 
ments to bring the same, as agreed on by the said commis- 
sion, into use." Strangely enough the records concerning 
the further use of this seal are almost completely silent. 
There is not recorded in the acts of the subsequent legisla- 
tures any report of that commission, though on Dec. 14, 1863, 
the sum of $2,000, or so much of it as might be necessary, 
was appropriated to pay the commissioners for preparing 
the new seal. 

There is no record, however, that the appropriation was 
ever used. Unfortunately every member of the commission 
is now dead and the details of their action cannot be ascer- 
tained. It appears, however, from impressions of this seal 
in the office of the Secretary of State, that it differed little 
from the seal of 1799. The only changes were: First, the 
date, 1861, was placed amid the brilliant rays of a new rising 
sun under the arch of the constitution, evidently symboliz- 
ing the birth of a new independence ; second, the man with 


the drawn sword, representing the military in defense of the 
constitution, was removed ; third, the date, 1799, at the bot- 
tom, was replaced by the date, 1776, representing the birth 
of our first independence. 

Several of our state histories give this last date as 1779, 
which is certainly wrong. I have before me a recent im- 
pression of this seal furnished by the Secretary of State and 
the date is clearly 1776. The proportions of the devices up- 
on this seal were slightly different from those on the old 

In 1865 the Confederate cause went down with the sur- 
render of Lee on April 9th, and Georgia once more occupied 
a new attitude to its constitution and to the new order of its 
political affairs. And now comes the strangest part of the 
history of the great seal of the State. The legislature of 
1865-'66 passed an act approved Feb. 5, 1866, which reads 
as follows: "That the seal prepared by the committee 
under the act assented to on the fourteenth day of Decem- 
ber, 1861, be and the same is hereby adopted as the seal of 
the office of the Secretary of State." 

So far as I have been able to ascertain, this is the only 
act concerning the great seal of the State passed since the 
war. Neither the acts of the legislatures since that time, 
nor the journals of the constitutional conventions of 1865, 
1868 and 1877, say one single word about ,the re-adoption 
of the old seal of 1799, and yet all the codes since 1866 de- 
scribe as the great seal of the State the old seal of 1799 which 
was used up to 1861. It would appear that with the down- 
fall of the Confederacy, the seal of 1799 was readopted with- 
out enactment. It is certain at all events, that the present 
seal is the old seal of 1799 and that it has been used ever 
since 1872. It will be observed also that the old Confed- 
erate seal was by the act of February 5, 1866, made the of- 
ficial seal of the Secretary of State and it is today in use in 
that office. It must be remembered that it is not the pres- 
ent great seal of the State, which is also kept in the same of- 

It is rather a curious fact that the old Confederate great 
seal is still in force in the office of the Secretary of State, but 
it is nevertheless true. 

A Patriotic Incident. 

In 1868 while Charles J. Jenkins was Governor, Georgia 
was placed under military rule and our state government 
passed into the unfriendly hands of that rapacious horde that 
made the reconstruction period memorable. The country 


was overrun by carpet-baggers, scalawags and negroes, and 
intelligence and political virtue were for a time to be at the 
mercy of ignorance and bitter partisan misrule. Governor 
Jenkins was forced to retire, and to deliver the government 
into the hands of his military successor. But at this crisis 
Governor Jenkins took the executive seal of the State, to- 
gether with $400,000 of the people's money, carried them 
north with him and locked them up in a vault for safe-keep- 
ing. Here they remained until 1872, when Georgia's own 
people once more obtained possession of the State govern- 
ment and placed James M. Smith in the executive office. It 
was then that the noble Jenkins in a speech of matchless elo- 
quence and patriotism before the General Assembly re- 
stored to Georgia the executive seal of the State and the 
money, which he had for four dark years held as a sacred 
trust for his people. For this patriotic act the General As- 
sembly unanimously ordered that a facsimile of the executive 
seal be made of gold, appropriately engraved and presented 
to Governor Jenkins. A resolution of gratitude and thanks, 
characterized by the loftiest sentiments of patriotism and 
honor, was also extended him. The occasion of the return 
of the executive seal of the State to her own people at this 
time forms one of the most touching and memorable in- 
cidents in the history of Georgia. 

The golden facsimile of the seal presented to Governor 
Jenkins and a beautiful framed copy of the resolutions are in 
the possession of the Georgia Historical Society at Savan- 

Thus it will be seen that the great seals of a state not 
only mark the great epochs in its political history, but they 
symbolize a nation's honor, and around them cluster the 
sacred sentiments of a people's faith and patriotic devo- 

"The following is Governor Brown's letter published in 
1912 and addressed to the Atlanta Constitution : 

"The enclosed advertisement was found in an old copy 
of the Louisville Gazette, dated February 26, 1799, when 
Louisville was the capital of Georgia. I secured several 
copies of this old paper from a collector several years ago. 

"I have never before known how the figures 1799 came 
on the great seal of Georgia and nobody seemed to be able 
to give any information as to when or by whom the great 
seal was designed. 


"I have copied it exactly as printed and punctuated and 
suggest that you reproduce it without making any changes 

"In the paper, the 's,' except when terminal, resembled 'f.' 
"I send it to you as you carry the great seal at the head 
of your editorial page." 

How Advertisement Appeared. 

"The advertisement in The Louisville Gazette, Feb- 
ruary 26, 1799, is reproduced in all the quaintness of its dic- 



Executive Department of Georgia, Louisville, Feb. 23rd, 

The Act, entitled "an act for altering the Great Seal 
of the State of Georgia" passed the 8th day of February, 
1799, being taken up and considered : It is 

ORDERED, That a premium of thirteen . dollars be 
given for the best drawing of the device for the great seal 
of this state, in pursuance of the second section of the said 
act — the device being as follows, towit : 

"On the one side, a view of the seashore with a ship 
bearing the flag of the United States, riding at anchor near 
a wharf, receiving on board hogsheads of tobacco and bales 
of cotton, emblematic of the exports of this state — at a small 
distance a boat landing from the interior of the state, with 
hogsheads, etc., on board, representing her internal traffic, 
in the back part of the same side, a man in the act of plow- 
ing and at a small distance a flock of sheep in different pas- 
tures shaded by a flourishing tree, the motto on this side 
agriculture and commerce, 1799 — that the other side contain 
three pillars supporting an arch with the word constitution 
engraved within the same, emblematic of the constitution 
supported by the three departments of the government, viz : 
the legislative, judicial and executive — the first pillar to 
have engraven on its base wisdom, the second justice, and 
the third moderation ; on the right of the last pillar a man 
standing with a drawn sword representing the aid of the 
military in defense of the constitution — the motto state of 
Georgia 1799." Provided such drawing be lodged in the 
executive office, at Louisville, on or before the twentieth 
day of April next ; the size of the seal two inches and one- 
quarter, and it is further 


Ordered, that proposals be received at the same office 
until the said twentieth day of April for forming, making 
and engraving the same agreeably to such device and draw- 
ing, in a masterly and workmanlike manner, on or before 
the third day of July next. Bond and security to be given 
for the due performance of the work, within the time limited 
in the sum of two thousand dollars. The proposals will 
be sealed up, addressed to the executive, and marked pro- 
posals for forming, making and engraving the great seal of 
the state of Georgia. The drawings will also be sealed up, 
addressed in like manner and marked drawings for the de- 
vice of the great seal and will be examined the twentieth 
day of April aforesaid. 

The cash will be paid for the drawing the moment it is 
decided on as to the best design, and for the seal immediately 
it is completed and delivered, if applied for. 

Taken from the minutes. 



The foregoing was found in The Louisville Gazette 
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 1799. 

In the above newspaper, dated Tuesday, May 7, 1799, 
is the following news item : 

"We understand that the device approved of by the 
governor for the great seal of this state was drawn by Mr. 
Sturges, the state surveyor general. The best drawing sent 
the executive department was performed by Mr. Chas. 
Frazer, of South Carolina, and which we are assured would 
have obtained the premium had he not through mistake 
placed all the figures on one side instead of making a re- 
verse. This young artist is but sixteen years old — his genius 
is great and deserves encouragement. Several of the hand- 
some performances were sent to the executive." 

In still another issue of the same paper Governor Brown 
completed his research for information about the great seal 
by discovering the full name and title of the designer, "Dan- 
iel Sturges, surveyor general," in a card announcing his 
business. It is doubtful if another person in the state other 
than Governor Brown knew the name of the designer, or 
that it could have been found without months of labor in 
searching old records, even if they are still legible and have 
not been destroyed. Georgia history is, therefore, in debt 
to him for this valuable information.